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For Sale By Owner

Though Kelcey Parker’s collection of short stories, For Sale By Owner, falls comfortably into the genre of discontented housewife lit—tackling subjects such as the disillusionment of a “perfect” marriage, the depression that often accompanies excessive material wealth, or the fantasies people create to distract themselves from reality—it stands out in that it has distinctly well-developed characters who are crafted with beautiful depth. Parker’s writing is thoughtful and highly literary, and she pulls readers into the disappointment of her characters’ lives while maintaining a sense of wry humor and irony. For example, in the short story “Best Friend Forever Attends a Baby Shower,” Parker describes the ache of social rejection and the growling bitterness it inspires:

Though Kelcey Parker’s collection of short stories, For Sale By Owner, falls comfortably into the genre of discontented housewife lit—tackling subjects such as the disillusionment of a “perfect” marriage, the depression that often accompanies excessive material wealth, or the fantasies people create to distract themselves from reality—it stands out in that it has distinctly well-developed characters who are crafted with beautiful depth. Parker’s writing is thoughtful and highly literary, and she pulls readers into the disappointment of her characters’ lives while maintaining a sense of wry humor and irony. For example, in the short story “Best Friend Forever Attends a Baby Shower,” Parker describes the ache of social rejection and the growling bitterness it inspires:

The Hostess’s older sister sits on a large pillow. Her skirt, daisies with gemmed carpels, fans out like a picnic blanket for her miniature gentleman, the only male allowed. Everyone fawns over the suited young man, except for the BFF who ignores him simply because if he were twenty years older he would ignore her.

Parker also deftly experiments with narrative perspective and, as in “Tom’s Story,” she allows the narrator to tell the reader about the story instead of telling the story itself. For example, she writes:

The first sentence of the story establishes the fact that the main character is Tom and that he’s having a bad day. No mention is made of Gina in the first sentence. The next sentence provides dialogue in which Tom tells someone—the reader does not know whom yet—to fuck off…. At this point, it is revealed that the person addressed is Gina, that she is Tom’s girlfriend, and that she has begun to cry.

Though this device limits the readers’ direct access to the story (which, at times, makes the story less interesting), Parker’s unique utilization of language is a testament to her skill, and her writing provides a refreshingly smart voice to this genre. In another example of her creative style, “Biography of Your Husband,” she writes a review of a husband as if it were a book blurb—complete with a gripping summary, editorial reviews, and an “about the author” segment. And in another still, “Domestic Air Quality,” one of her characters gives two air filter market researchers more information than they bargained for when she fills out a survey. Parker’s descriptions are memorably vivid (e.g. seeing a person’s reflection in a shiny eggplant), and she creates an edge of suspense in every story that keeps the pages turning; I highly recommend this collection of short stories.

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